Story Courtesy of George Mason
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – George Mason began its California road trip with a Friday night match against the 12th ranked CSUN Matadors. The Patriots got off to a good start at the net, logging 5.5 blocks as a team, but CSUN upended the Patriots 3-0.
Sophomore Bryce Gatling tied his season high with 8.0 points behind five kills and five total blocks (one solo). Gatling now has a solo block in two straight matches and increased his blocks per set average to 1.30 during his seven-match stint as a starting middle blocker.
Junior Kyle Barnes added to his hot hitting with another double-digit kill night, this time sending 10 attacks to the floor. Barnes has now notched at least 10 kills in four straight matches while hitting at least .300 in his last seven. The Virginia Beach, Va. native hit .500 on Friday night on 14 attempts.
RS-senior Christian Malias pitched in a service ace; now has one in three straight matches and four of his last five.
"I thought we came in with the right mindset and game plan. We just didn't execute at the level we are used to," head coach Jay Hosack said. "That's what good teams do, they push. We will learn from this."
Mason began the match with a 4-0 run that had a block from Malias and Gatling, a kill from Barnes and an ace from Malias to put Mason up 4-1 early. CSUN battled back to tie the score at 7-7 and soon went up 9-7 behind back-to-back solo blocks. The Patriots had an answer with a 3-0 run to retake the lead at 10-9 thanks in large part to a block and a kill from Brian Negron. The teams traded points to the 13-13 mark, which kick-started a 6-1 run that put the Patriots up 17-14 and forced a Matador timeout. In that stretch, Barnes and Langston Payne notched kills while Payne also recorded his lone solo block of the night. However, CSUN answered by collecting six of the next seven points themselves to go up 20-18 and put themselves in control. The Green and Gold managed to tie the score at 22-22, but it was the last burst they had in the set as CSUN collected three of the next four points for a 25-23 victory.
The Matadors jumped out to an early 3-0 lead that set the tone for the entire set that would have them on top of the score sheet. CSUN led by as many as six with a 10-4 edge, but Mason quickly battled back and managed to hang around and not go down without a fight. Hayden Wagner led the Patriots with five kills in the set and Barnes pitched in another three. The Patriots cut the deficit to four on two separate occasions, but were unable to fully erase the CSUN lead as the Matadors took the second frame 25-18.
Gatling got the Patriots' second point of the set on a kill to tie the early score at 2-2, and a Malias kill gave the Patriots the lead at 5-4. Mason had an efficient attack in the early portions of the set with Malias, Payne, Wagner, Gatling and Barnes all registering kills to guide Mason to a 9-7 lead. The Matadors countered with a 4-0 run to go up 11-9, and then a 3-0 run soon after to go up 16-12. Once again, Mason wouldn't go down without a fight as its points came in the form of kills and blocks while having its back against the wall. Gatling hauled in two more blocks (one solo) down the stretch to bring his total to five and Travis O'Gorman snagged two kills late in the set to set a new career high for his young career. Despite Mason being able to keep the deficit to three or less for most of the set, CSUN finished with a 3-0 run and took the set 25-19 and the match 3-0.
Mason returns to the court Saturday night against No. 5 UCLA at the Pauley Pavilion – home of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The Patriots have not played the Bruins since 2016 and Saturday will mark the eighth time UCLA will be an AVCA top-five team when the Patriots square off against them.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• The Patriots had 5.5 team blocks in the first set, the most in a set since the second frame of the Barton match (Feb. 9).
• Langston Payne has notched a solo block in three straight matches, tying the longest stretch of his career.
• With Bryce Gatling's five total blocks, he's had at least a share in the team lead in three straight matches and five of the last six.